Spraying a Nobel Prize laureate with water cannons and tear gas does not seem like a good idea for a government under duress. And detaining him under house arrest is maybe worse. Moreover, combatting a public cry for full-scale regime change with police clubs and wooden bullets is bound to exacerbate what already looks like a losing situation. ("Peacefully, peacefully,” the demonstrators have been shouting in Egypt's capital, Cairo.) To use Mohamad ElBaradei’s own words, it does seem like Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign in Egypt is “doomed.”
Separately, and very sadly, the violence that befell another African human rights leader is less likely to result in a change for the better—at least any time soon. David Kato, the most visible gay-rights advocate in Uganda, where parliament is considering a bill to make homosexuality a capital offense, was beaten to death with a hammer in his home yesterday in Kampala. Police are calling it a robbery. Neither the newspaper that published Kato’s name and address—along with information about other Ugandan gay men and women—under a headline reading “Hang Them,” will accept any responsibility in the matter. Neither will the American evangelicals who set Uganda into its current frenzy with a tour preaching homophobia in 2009.
It would be nice to think that such a violent tragedy might result in a reversal of a prevailing and horribly wrong-headed public sentiment. But it seems like Uganda has a long way to go before that happens.
Image: ASSOCIATED PRESSAP